Since the day hikes in the Cordillera Blanca are just like a scratch on the surface, never getting to the core of the mountains, I decided to book a longer tour with an agency. The hikers usually choose the relatively easy, but beautiful Santa Cruz trek. As this tour is recommended and extensively described in the Lonely Planet, it sometimes sees as much as 100 people at each camp every night! Enjoying mountains in a crowd is really not my thing, so I decided for the tougher but no less beautiful 3-day tour through Aquilpo and Ishinca valleys, with the advantage of sharing the experience with just three other gringos, a local Quechua guide and his son, two horses and two donkeys.
It turned out to be the right choice and a spectacular trek. The way goes up through the dense forest of the Quenual trees, passes the tourqouise Aquilpo Lake, and climbs steeply up to the mountain pass of 5000m. From there, over the snow and huge rocks, it descents into the valley of Ishinca. The nights were freezing cold, with the temperature falling below zero, but there is nothing comparable to the feeling of waking up in the morning with the view of the snow-capped peaks. It was an unforgettable adventure – untouched nature, breathtaking views and the sensation of being on top of the world.
(Note that using a toilet in such a remote area is far more complicated than usual 😉 – check the picture!)